Thursday, March 08, 2007
Split This Rock Launches at AWP – and a Movement is Born!
What a launch it was! It is clear from the response Split This Rock inspired that we are doing something very essential, at exactly the right time. We had reserved a table in the immense book fair and placed an ad in the conference program book, listing our table number and inviting writers to come visit us. And visit us they did! Poets and writers from Stone Mountain, Georgia and Fargo, North Dakota, and Saskatoon, Canada and our own hometown of Washington, D.C. approached us, wanting to be involved, offering help, donating their gifts and their money and their time. The need is obviously great. Clearly, poets have just been waiting to be invited to come together here in D.C., at this time, to speak out, to provoke and bear witness, to tell the truth, to demand a change.
Friday night at 10 pm saw us crazed with sleeplessness and exhilaration, hosting a Split This Rock kick-off party in one of the awful meeting rooms in the conference hotel. But we made the most of the airless space, thanks to music and flowers and bartenders – and the overflowing crowd. Regie Cabico welcomed everyone, I presented our vision for the festival with a brief call to arms, and then: Mark Doty, Alicia Ostriker, Patricia Smith, and Pamela Uschuk, four of the Split This Rock featured poets, astonished us with their words about the importance of poetry in these times and one stunning, powerful poem each. After weeks of organizing and planning and running around to get us there, I was struck dumb and moved to tears by what it’s all about, at last – the power of poetry to remind us that our beautiful, broken world is worth fighting for with everything we have. Melissa Tuckey capped the evening with a great plea for help, such that we raised funds and made a ton of connections and were energized for the hard work ahead.
Among the many developments from the weekend: Beloit Poetry Journal, one of the oldest and most esteemed journals in the country, approached us with the idea of a special Split This Rock issue, to be published in conjunction with the festival. It’s happening! Magazines and reviews and literary journals offered free advertising space. Seasoned fundraisers offered help. Mark Doty offered to give a benefit reading in New York City. Alicia Ostriker sold copies of the political issue of Nightsun she had edited and is sending a check.
We are off to an incredible start. Special ENORMOUS thanks to the Split This Rock AWP crew for their high energy, commitment, and good humor throughout four crazy days: Naomi Ayala, Regie Cabico, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Hayes Davis, Kim Roberts, and Melissa Tuckey were marvels of hard work and even tempers. Christi Kramer was an incredible stalwart of a volunteer at the party and Sandra Beasley, Andrea Carter Brown, Bernadette Geyer, Richard Peabody, and Carly Sachs helped keep our spirits up with their visits to the table and frequent administrations of chocolate and love.
We are deeply grateful to the four poets who shared their dedication and strong voices with us at the party: Mark Doty, Alicia Ostriker, Patricia Smith, and Pamela Uschuk. Go out and buy their books, read them on the web, be inspired.
PRAISES to the many others who gave Split This Rock such a marvelous launch into the world, donating their professional skills and services: Nancy Bratton of Nancy Bratton Design designed our marvelous logo and business cards. Michael Heroux set up the website at http://www.splitthisrock.org/. Sarah Massey of Sarah Massey Media donated the flyer. Lindsey Tharp of Reingold gave us a discounted price on the sticky-note pads we handed out and helped us navigate the complex, new-to-us world of “swag.” Tanya Snyder designed the forms that helped us collect names and funds. E. Ethelbert Miller was our inspiration and guide. Andy Shallal of Busboys & Poets provided financial support and constant encouragement.
Join us! Contact me at browning@SplitThisRock.org or by leaving a comment here to get involved. It’s going to be an incredible year!
Many thanks and fierce hopes for peace,